How to Stop Alcohol Cravings: An Evidence-Based Guide


Many people struggling with alcohol use disorder report intense cravings as a main reason for relapse. These can stand between a person who’s genuinely determined to overcome alcohol addiction and their goal of lasting sobriety.

This guide shows you how to stop alcohol cravings with multiple methods you can try at home. You’ll also learn how medication-assisted treatment can help you crave alcohol less and maintain a sober lifestyle.

What Causes Alcohol Cravings?

The primary reason behind alcohol craving is dopamine; a neurotransmitter that plays a major role in mediating positive emotions like pleasure, motivation, and success.

Dopamine is naturally released whenever a person is happy or when they engage in an enjoyable, rewarding activity.

When we drink alcohol, even in low doses, our bodies start to secrete more dopamine.

With continuous alcohol use to decompress or relax, the brain starts to associate alcohol consumption with feelings of relief and reward.

That’s when the “drinking habit” begins to form, as the brain is now accustomed to the fact that drinking automatically means a positive feeling takes over.

This cycle can be a gateway for alcohol abuse since the brain reduces its dopamine release whenever the person is not drinking. It also becomes a leading cause of depression as part of alcohol withdrawal symptoms when the person quits cold turkey, as their brain takes time to get used to the new level of dopamine.

7 Ways to Help Reduce Alcohol Cravings

Follow these tips to help in reducing alcohol cravings:

1. Recognize and Understand the Triggers

Most people don’t notice how certain situations can trigger their urge to drink. For example, if you used to drink to cope with stress, difficult situations may trigger the thought of drinking.

These triggers can be external or internal. Take a few minutes to write down triggers so you can identify them properly.

External triggers can be people, situations, certain songs that you may have heard in a bar…etc. These triggers are generally simple to handle, as you can often avoid them.

Then there are internal triggers, which happen when the thought of drinking comes to your mind for no apparent reason.

Internal triggers are more challenging to handle, but you can learn to cope with them. When the “one drink couldn’t hurt” thought pops up, look back at all those back-to-back drinks you had that started with the same thought.

It’s not always easy to do, and you will have to fight the urge instead of avoiding it, but with time, your body will disconnect the link between alcohol and pleasure.

2. Distract Yourself Whenever Possible

Cravings can sometimes occur when it’s possible to look the other way. If you’re relaxing at home and feel cravings, you can distract yourself by doing an activity that requires active attention, like:

  • Talking or calling a friend or a family member.
  • Watching a movie that you haven’t watched before.
  • Reading a book that you enjoy.
  • Playing video games.

3. Practice Immersion Bathing

Regular showering has an array of physical and mental benefits, but you can experience more of them if you have a bath every so often.

According to a 2018 study, routine immersion bathing is mentally and physically more beneficial compared to standing showers. It can help you reduce stress and anxiety, which could also control your alcohol cravings.

4. Resist Peer Pressure

You may have close friends or even family members who can contribute to your alcohol intake and habits. According to multiple studies and surveys, peer pressure influences the drinking behavior in young adults who would have otherwise remained sober.

This pressure can linger even if you’re an adult with a family and personal responsibilities. As such, you need to learn how to repeatedly say no until the pressure subsides.

5. Break Habits

Breaking regular drinking habits can help you avoid alcohol cravings. It also helps untether your brain’s association of certain times of the day, places, and friend groups with the act of drinking.

If your preferred time and place for a drink was after dinner in the living room, go for a walk after dinner or leave the living room and sit in your bedroom. Breaking the loop will allow your brain to detach drinking alcohol from the daily routine and create a new, alcohol-free pathway.

6. Join a Support Group

Maintaining sobriety and reducing cravings can sometimes be too difficult to handle on your own. Support groups are an excellent asset to help you feel that you’re not alone.

These groups connect you with peers who have the same struggle. Sharing experiences and receiving guidance from senior members can help you fight off the cravings.

Here some some support groups to choose from:

7. Try Telehealth Services

Telehealth services are among the easiest methods to seek help for fighting cravings and alcohol addiction. In addition to having specialized support groups, these services also provide regular therapy sessions and round-the-clock access to certified clinicians.

Therapy sessions can help you organize your conflicted thoughts, identify your triggers, and formulate a plan to minimize the effect of those triggers.

Telehealth therapy also has the advantage of being online, making it accessible even for frequent travelers or people with mobility issues.

Certified telehealth service providers, like CuredNation, can also provide you with anti-addiction medications through electronic prescriptions.

Professional Help to Fight Alcohol Cravings

Even with the help of family and friends, it can sometimes be too difficult to handle cravings without professional help. If that happens, you may require medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

The treatment involves a mix of medications alongside therapy and support groups to help you fight off the cravings.

The most common medication used in MAT is naltrexone (commercially known as ReVia).

Understanding Naltrexone

Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that binds to the opioid receptors in the brain. Normally, the body secretes endogenous opioids to help mediate feelings of happiness, relief, or pain.

When someone abuses alcohol, it hijacks this system, triggering the euphoric sensation associated with drinking and affecting the natural opioid-release mechanism.

Naltrexone works by binding to these opioid receptors without activating them. When a person who takes Naltrexone consumes alcohol, they will hardly feel any of its effects.

Since it’s an FDA-approved opioid antagonist, Naltrexone isn’t addictive, making it safe to use (under supervision) to curb alcohol cravings.

Other FDA-approved medications to help with alcohol include Acamprosate and Disulfiram.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Can Alcohol Cravings Last?

Alcohol cravings can last from a few days up to months after recovery. These cravings depend on the severity of the dependence, triggers, coping mechanisms, and individual differences.

Does Eating Sweets Increase Alcohol Cravings?

There’s ongoing literature that excessive sweets and calories can increase alcohol cravings. However, evidence supporting such claims isn’t concrete. According to a 2019 study, no significant links were present between craving alcohol and eating sweet foods.

Is Alcohol Craving a Mental Condition?

Alcohol craving itself isn’t necessarily a mental condition, but it can be a symptom of other mental conditions like anxiety disorders or depression. It can also be a result of unaddressed issues relating to alcohol addiction treatment.

Fight Alcohol Cravings Through Evidence-Based Treatment

If you feel stuck, require help, or just need someone to talk to, book an appointment with CuredNation to have your condition assessed by trained professionals.

You’ll get access to a personalized treatment plan and provide helpful resources to help you start on your recovery journey today.


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